Bred for labs, 70 beagles find homes instead
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2013:
CHENNAI––Seventy beagle puppies bred in China by Beijing Marshall Biotechnology Co., Ltd for laboratory use were instead on December 19, 2012 adopted into homes by the Blue Cross of India. Bought by the Bangalore pharmaceutical firm Advinus Thereapeutics, the beagle pups were flown to Chennai on October 19, 2012 by Cathay Pacific Airways, misidentified as pets on transport documents.
“Cathay Pacific, which has a strict policy against transporting animals to laboratories, was misinformed by the supplier,” recounted PETA/India chief executive Poorva Joshipura. Tipped to the ruse, PETA/India “notified the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experimentation on Animals,”
Joshipura continued. Responding to PETA alerts, Joshipura said, “More than 50,000 people from around the world sent e-mails to authorities calling for the dogs’ release.” But that was just the beginning of the rescue effort.
“I had to see two Finance Committees, the head of Customs in Delhi and Chennai, the Minister for the Environment, and about 30 other officials,” said People for Animals founder Maneka Gandhi. As the case developed, Mrs. Gandhi continued, PfA/Chennai representative Shiranee Pereira and longtime Blue Cross of India chief executive Chinny Krishna “went to do inspections of Advinus and the documentation––and pulled out 27 more beagles. Chinny Krishna got in touch with the Minister,” Jayanthi Natarajan, “got her to go to Chennai to see the dogs, spoke to the Animal Husbandry department officials, and then he and Shiranee found homes for the beagles in advance.”
Affirmed Krishna, who represented the Animal Welfare Board of India in making the arrangements, “The release took nine weeks of effort, including 17 days of hard bargaining and 20 hours of pulling out every stop.” The 17 days of hard bargaining came after environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan told media on December 2, 2012 that Advinus Therapeutics would be ordered to show cause why the beagles should not be seized as smuggled goods, and suggested that the company might lose permission to operate in India.
“Advinus had permission to import 434 dogs for 14 experiments. This was the sixth consignment,” Natarajan told The Hindu. “Now I hear the experiments are over. We are deeply concerned that these animals may be misused by labs for other purposes,” including product testing under contract to foreign companies, “not done necessarily for the benefit of India.”
Advinus responded to the show cause notice by agreeing to release the puppies to the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experimentation on Animals, Preeti Zachariah of The Hindu reported on December 12, 2012, citing confidential sources, but the case was still a week from conclusion.
The puppies were finally released with strict biosecurity precautions.
“Two vehicles had been painted, fumigated, and kept ready for nine days, hoping to get the released dogs to a foster home––mine!––safely. All persons involved were volunteers who had not played with any animal that day after changing their clothes,” Krishna said.
Airline policies Beijing Marshall Biotechnology Co., Ltd. and Advinus flew the beagle puppies via Cathay Pacific about seven weeks after Air India briefly suspended transporting animals for laboratory use. “In an e-mail to PETA,” reported Neha Madaan of the Times News Network, “Air India confirmed that a circular was sent to all stations in its network that instructs them not to accept animals who are being transported for experimental purposes. By October 26, 2012, however, a week after the beagle puppies arrived in Chennai, Air India had rescinded the suspension of transporting lab animals.
“India’s second-largest airline, Jet Airways, refuses to ship any animal to laboratories,” said PETA associate director of laboratory investigations Justin Goodwin. “Many other air carriers, including Korean Airlines, Qantas, EVA Air, FedEx, UPS, and DHL,” as well as Cathay Pacific, “do not transport animals to labs.”
United Airlines partially joined the list on January 8, 2013. “We do not book, accept, or transport primates to or from medical research facilities,” United Airlines said in a statement released to PETA and Agence France-Presse.
A Canadian Transportation Agency tribunal in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 20, 2012 ruled that Air Canada may also refuse to transport laboratory animals. Queen’s University vice principal of research Steven Liss and the Public Health Agency of Canada had appealed to the tribunal against an Air Canada policy of refusing to transport nonhuman primates for use in research.
Airlines appear to have become increasingly cautious about transporting lab animals since a 2008 incident in which sixteen monkeys died from starvation and hypothermia en route from a breeder in Guyana to a laboratory in Bangkok.
Nine monkeys survived the ordeal, which included four days in holding at Miami International Airport before the monkeys were relayed to Los Angeles, and 39 hours in crates outdoors in near-freezing weather in China, where they were held due to allegedly incomplete paperwork before being returned to Los Angeles.
A Los Angeles jury in April 2012 acquitted Florida animal dealer Robert Matson Con-yers, 44, of cruelty, but the USDA in September 2012 fined Southern China Airlines $14,438.
About 70% of the monkeys used in U.S. labs in recent years have come from China, mostly flown by Air China and Hainan Airlines. Hainan Airlines announced in February 2012 that it would no longer fly monkeys for research use. Jason Wang, New York cargo manager for Air China, in July 2012 e-mailed to PETA, “We are notified by headquarters that we have stopped conducting this business.” Agence France-Presse reported that Air China had been cited four times for alleged U.S. Animal Welfare Act violations in the first six months of 2012.
PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo pledged to continue to pressure Air France, China Eastern Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines to stop flying nonhuman primates for lab use. These are believed to be the last four international airlines left in the lab monkey traffic.
Italian beagle rescue
The Advinus beagle case erupted to international notice a month after Italian senator Renato Schifani and rehabilitator Eleanor Bizzzozero on September 20, 2012 announced that the last of 2,500 beagles impounded in July 2012 from the Green Hill breeding kennel in Montichiari, Italy had been rehomed.
Green Hill, a subsidiary of Marshall Bioresources, was reportedly the largest kennel in Europe producing beagles for lab use. It became controversial after a related company, B&K Universal, sought permits to build a 2,000-dog kennel in Britain.
In October 2011 five activists drew attention to Green Hill by climbing to the kennel roof and staging a sit-in. As many as 1,000 activists on April 28, 2012 marched against the facility, clashing with police and removing several beagles. But the police apparently did not like what they saw at Green Hill, either, returning just over two months later to close the facility, seize the dogs, and investigate cruelty charges against three company managers, according to the newspaper Gazetta del Sud.